I would like to introduce myself and showcase my significant contribution to the global research excellence in Microelectronic Engineering. I am an early career researcher working on fundamental research to develop microelectronics and magnetic sensors for diverse biomedical and healthcare applications. My research background, scientific accomplishments and work experience paved the way for my current employment as a Research Assitant in the Microelectronic Laboratory (meLAB), directed by Dr Hadi Heidari, at the James Watt School of Engineering of the University of Glasgow.
To achieve my aspiration of becoming an academic researcher, I have completed my PhD in Electronics and Nanoscale Engineering under a full 3.5-year industrial studentship at the University of Glasgow. My research is broadly ranging from theoretical, simulation, design, fabrication, and experimental work in fundamental physics to wide applications of wearable and implantable electronics. I was developing a new scientific and engineering paradigm to analyse muscle activity using highly miniaturized and ultra-sensitive magnetic sensors. Through my PhD research, I have developed a unique combination of skills interfacing cutting edge theoretical, computational, and experimental physics with advanced biological modelling and testing. I have authored over ten publications as the first author in top-tier peer-reviewed journal and international conferences, with two journal articles featured on IEEE Electron Device Letters as the cover and Advanced Materials Technologies as a frontispiece image. Besides, I have contributed a book chapter as the first author, published by Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), on innovative prosthetic control solutions using magnetic sensors. Furthermore, I received multiple awards, including the Best Paper Award from IEEE PrimeAsia’18 conference and Student Travel Grants from IEEE Circuits and Systems Society to attend conferences in ISCAS’19, UKCAS’19 and ISCAS’20.
In October 2018, I was awarded an international fellowship by the German Research Foundation to join the Collaborative Research Centre 1261 as for “Magnetoelectric Sensors: From Composite Materials to Biomagnetic Diagnostics” at Kiel University, Germany, as part of my PhD studies. During my fellowship, I focused on “finite-element-method simulation of magnetoelectric sensors” in a cross-disciplinary team of scientists from materials science, electrical engineering, physics and medicine. This work has been initiated a new research line on magnetic sensors at the University of Glasgow and established a long-term collaboration with the University of Kiel and Fraunhofer ISIT Germany. Since then, I have proven that I am an active and resourceful researcher able to take advantage of development opportunities, and I have established an extensive network with my industrial (Seagate Technology and Delsys Inc.) and academic collaborators in the UK (e.g. Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh), Portugal (International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory), Switzerland (Ostschweizer Kinderspital), Germany (University of Stuttgart), and China (University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and Jilin University).
I have frequently shown initiative and leadership abilities by going beyond the remit of my current role in developing magnetic sensing technologies during my PhD. I am working on another project related to developing handheld and rapid diagnostic devices for malaria parasites detection in collaboration with Ugandan company ThinkIT Ltd and Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow. This project aims to implement a handheld and cost-effective smart magnetic platform to detect malaria, that every year kills around 430,000 people and infects more than 200 million globally, according to Médecins Sans Frontières. This is a revolutionary step toward the development of a miniaturized device for magnetic-based malaria diagnostic in several minutes, resulting in improved diagnosis, especially in malaria-affected regions that lack medical resources. I have led a team project with four undergraduates on “Magnetic-assisted Malaria Parasite Detection”, winning first place in the IEEE Circuit and Systems Society Student Design Competition as a representative of IEEE Region 8 (Europe, Middle East and Africa) to attend ISCAS’20 conference (Video: https://youtu.be/a1g4Bj-jgfM). My promising work was recognized as I was awarded the coveted University of Glasgow EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) grant of £16,600 and Wellcome Trust Translational Partnership with the Matibabu Ltd in Uganda. I was employed as a Research Technician from February to May 2021 to establish the detection threshold for the handheld magnetic platform, refine and improve the diagnostic capabilities of the electronic components with laboratory-grown human malaria parasites.
I am co-supervising a PhD (Mr Yuchen Li) and an MEng (Ms María Cerezo Sánchez) student at meLAB. I frequently propose research activity, knowledge exchange, impact and outreach programs towards engaging our research with the public to increase awareness of the impact of our research work. I have disseminated our project outcomes at School’s Open Days, STEMFest, European Researchers’ Night (EXPLORATHON) at the Glasgow Science Center. In addition, I was recently invited to deliver a lecture about “Thin-Film Spintronics for Medical and Industrial Applications” for master students in Physics - Thin Film Devices and Applications Module at the University of the West of Scotland, and another lecture on “Spintronic Devices for Biomedical Biosensing and Non-Volatile In-Memory Computing” for HiSilicon Technologies Co., Ltd. Moreover, I helped organize the Glasgow Research Summer School 2020 with nine undergraduates from University of Electronic Science and Technology of China. During this period, I arranged weekly online seminars and meetings, and supervised them to do an independent research. Furthermore, I was invited to be a conference tutorial “Spintronic Neuromorphic Computing” chair at the 27th IEEE International Conference on Electronics Circuits and Systems in November 2020. I currently have authored and co-authored over 30 peer-reviewed publications in top-tier journals or conference proceedings and acts as a reviewer for several journals and conferences. My recent work on developing modelling and analysis of the magnetic fields from skeletal muscle is under review in Nature Protocols (preprint available in arXiv). The experiments were disrupted because of COVID but I am certain that, if successful, I will have another top paper; in one of the journals of the Nature/Science family.
I have recently been offered a postdoctoral research associate position, starting from June 2021, at the University of Glasgow. As soon as I get my visa, I can start my work in this post. My new will provide me with a unique prospect to extend my existing technical skills and research activities. I will work on 5 years €8.4 million Hybrid Enhanced Regenerative Medicine Systems (HERMES) project, funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020, with eleven international collaborators. The key goals of this project are the design, fabrication and encapsulation of the implantable flexible neural interfaces for epilepsy treatment through neural recording/stimulation in the brain. I will lead the computational modelling of neural interfaces subgroup where I will design innovative flexible implantable neural probe, developing a model based on finite element methods. I will produce several proofs-of-concept and demonstrate various flexible neural interface use cases, including an ultra-flexible multimodal neural probe with highly viable and biocompatible design for chronic recording/stimulation of brain hippocampus, which can be used specifically for epilepsy treatment. This new project will offer me the opportunity as an independent researcher to carry out all modelling, fabrication, characterisation, and experimental aspects. In addition, I will be able to collaborate with other research groups who are working in the field of microelectronics and bioelectronics and help me to widen my horizons to explore new innovative directions in my field.
My theoretical and practical research work and experiences in academia, as well as exposure to different projects, distinguish me from other young researchers in the field of bioelectronics and microelectronics. I would like to apply for the Research Fellowships this year based on my research outcomes. For the next five years, I will be responsible for securing funding for my research group and establish myself as a leading academic in my own field. The following activities have been identified:
1) AWARD GENERATION: I will secure other funds as a senior researcher from main research-funding bodies, including European Commission, EPSRC, Royal Society, Innovate UK and The Leverhulme Trust, and firmly establish a UK lead in next-generation magnetic sensors research.
2) PUBLICATION: I will keep try to publish in top-tier journals in the field of microelectronics. They include but not limited to the journals of Nature/Science family (e.g. Nature Electronics, Science Advances), IEEE Transactions (e.g. TBioCAS, TCAS, TBME, TMAG), in the following topics.
Miniaturized Magnetic Sensors for MagnetoMyoGraphy, Nature Electronics
Frequency Tunable Resonant Magnetoelectric Sensors, Applied Physics Letters
Tunnelling Magnetoresistive Lab-on-a-Chip for Malaria, Biosensors and Bioelectronics
Implantable Magnetic System, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems
Aided by my strong national and international collaborations and existing links to research groups in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal and China, I will be able to build up my extensive collaborations and profile within the international research and industrial community.
National: University of Glasgow, Imperial College London, University College London, University of Bath, University of Edinburgh, Newcastle University and University of the West of Scotland.
Europe: I am collaborating with 11 European partners through EU HERMES project, embracing scientists from neurobiology, electronic engineering, computer science, and social sciences.
China and Australia: I have active collaborations with research partners at University of Macau, University of Electronic Science & Technology China, Jilin University, and University of Sydney.
3) KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE & IMPACT: I have established long-term collaborative research with industries, e.g. EPSRC IAA with ThinkIT Ltd and Wellcome Trust Translational Partnership with Matibabu Ltd to develop the next generation of handheld and rapid diagnostics for lab-on-a-chip malaria parasites. Setup a spin-off to commercialize the magnetic sensors for electrical current sensing, magnetic navigation, vehicle detection, gesture recognition, capturing human bio-signals and point-of-care diagnostics is my additional long plan.
In the next 5 years, I will focus on an ambitious project of developing a new technological tool based on a wireless and implantable spintronic sensor for the detection of three-dimensional magnetic fields from the skeletal muscles. My long-term vision is to transform the diagnosis of peripheral muscle and nerve diseases and to radically enhance the efficacy of motor rehabilitation after stroke, spinal cord injury or limb loss. A key challenge remained over the past four decades is the development of effective methods for the measurement of muscle activity that offer high spatial and temporal resolutions. Conventionally, muscle activity can be recorded and analysed electrically by electromyography method from the surface of the skin using metal electrodes, which is a well-established method and widely used today in basic, sports and clinical studies. However, the surface electric signals suffer from poor spatial resolution. It is difficult, if not impossible, to record from individual motor units within a muscle selectively. High-density needle electrodes are even utilised to target specific tissues. In addition to being painful, the penetration of the needle into the muscle disturbs the muscle structure and function. Moreover, in chronic implants, such as for the motor rehabilitation, the interface between the metal contacts of the sensor and the human tissue changes over time, leading to infection and rejection by the body. Thus, there is an urgent need for an innovative alternative paradigm that enables the recording of muscle activity at high spatial resolution with minimal invasiveness. Biomagnetism, which is the magnetic counterpart of bioelectricity method, is the only conceivable candidate that can address both limitations target objectives. I aim to develop and validate, for the first time, a wireless implantable spintronic-based system. It will integrate readout microelectronic circuit and function in a sub-pico-Tesla range at room temperature. Addressing the technical challenges in an unprecedented level of miniaturization, the sensor detection range with their wireless power and data transfer can enable the use of chronic magnetic signals recording for a wide range of applications in neurotechnology systems, neurophysiology, and movement neuroscience.
In conclusion, I am highly confident that my intellectual background, scientific and technical excellence, as well as my passion for engineering and bringing together research from diverse fields, will help to ensure the UK’s leadership in the development of movement neuroscience and medical diagnostics, keeping the UK R&D sector competitive internationally. This will also support my claim of being an emerging leader in biosensors and bioelectronics for healthcare.